WASHINGTON – Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) said many of his Republican colleagues are “afraid” to vote for an immigration reform bill that includes a permanent fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the only way to get it passed is “jamming this on people.”
“They are afraid of ultimately being pegged as ‘you support amnesty’ and that’s going to kill you in a Republican primary, right?” Hurd said during the discussion “Shaping Bipartisan Immigration Policy: What’s Next?” at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) Leadership Conference on Wednesday.
“This is the argument I try to make with some of my colleagues: We’re at 3.8 percent unemployment, which means every industry needs people from agriculture through artificial intelligence,” he continued. “Now is not the time we should be talking about decreasing immigration.”
Hurd introduced the Uniting and Securing America Act, or USA Act, with Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) at the beginning of the year that would “provide relief from removal and adjustment of status of certain individuals who are long-term United States residents and who entered the United States before reaching the age of 18” as well as “improve border security.”
Hurd said it was easier working with Aguilar on the issue of immigration than with his GOP colleagues.
“We both understand the nuance of the issue and when he says ‘this is something,’ then I understand what that means and we can cut through all the nonsense. So it was much more difficult to deal with my colleagues on my side of the aisle because a lot of people are afraid of this issue. And I think that’s crazy,” Hurd said, adding that there are members of his party who won’t support increasing the amount of immigration coming into the U.S. under any circumstances.
“You’re never going to convince them so stop trying. Forget them. And there’s also folks on the other side of aisle that will do absolutely nothing to ever let this person in the White House get a victory, so you’re never going to change that opinion so forget them, right? So how do we address this in the middle?”
Hurd mentioned the connection of hurricane damage in Texas and the need for immigrant labor.
“There are 50,000 [Temporary Protected Status] visa holders in Houston in construction alone. The average lifetime in Houston was like 17 years. They’re rebuilding Houston and we’re talking about getting rid of them? That is crazy. That is crazy. There’s nobody there that’s going to be able to fill those spots, so, trying to make that argument, and me and my fellow Texans understand that and recognize this,” he said.
“What I will say is the only way we’re going to get this done, and I’m going to be frank, is jamming this on people, plain and simple – that’s not happening before November, because technically we don’t even have an opportunity,” he added.
Hurd said the House might pass an immigration reform bill in the lame-duck session.
“Our next opportunity is in December and I think, I hope, some of my colleagues get a little more steel in their spine after the election and that we can get a narrow fix done in order to solve this problem for the 1.2, 1 million plus,” he said.
Hurt explained that a discharge petition would be a way to pass an immigration bill that includes a permanent fix for the DACA program.
“You’re going to see more Republicans vote for this than join the discharge – that’s the reality,” he said.
Addressing the issue of separating families arriving at the border, Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said there are “many members on both sides who find what’s occurring” with immigration detention “appalling.”
“I’m embarrassed to state, but I’m going to because I think it’s true: I don’t think that this has entirely been going on in just this administration,” Lujan Grisham, who is running for governor of New Mexico, said at the CHCI conference. “I will say this, I might have a colleague disagree with me, I think it’s more purposeful in this administration and I think it is more callous in this administration but I don’t think we’ve been paying attention to what we do in this country with individuals in detention and in a foster environment for children and all these unaccompanied minors in many administrations.”
Moderator Ed O’Keefe of CBS News said Lujan Grisham had made an “important point that this is not unique to the Trump administration, that this was going on well before the Trump administration.”
Lujan Grisham replied, “Right, but I think the attitude in this administration bears noting, is completely different, and I wanted to make sure I said both.”